Pear Butter Weight

Let’s be honest: there’s baby weight, and then there’s grad school weight.  And as long as we’re putting on weight, may as well make it worth it.  This pear butter is golden, just the right amount of sweetness, and will put you in all the good graces of anyone lucky enough to get a homemade jar from your hands.

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PEAR BUTTER

  • Servings: makes 6 pint jars
  • Difficulty: relatively easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 20 pears, cored and chopped in a large dice
  • zest of 2 large oranges
  • 2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped out, and pods used to steep*
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 teaspoons anise seeds, depending on your taste
  • 4 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pears have cooked down to a soft texture, and most of the liquid has cooked off so the whole mixture looks almost like a can of apple pie filling (it will be a little wetter, not quite so much of a gel like the canned pie filling).  This will take about one hour.
  2. Remove the vanilla bean pods and cinnamon sticks, and working in batches, ladle about 5 cups of the pear mixture into the blender to blend into a smooth consistency (I usually do this in just two batches).
  3. Spoon into jars and can according to your canning directions, or save in the freezer.  (I always make 5 jars as “canned” jars to save in the pantry, and then fill an extra jar to keep in our fridge to eat right then.  The “extra” jar isn’t quite filled to a full pint.)

* If you don’t have vanilla beans, you can add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract while you are blending it; it will have a nice vanilla flavor, but you will miss the nuance whole vanilla beans give to the butter (I know I did when I made it with extract instead of beans!)

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Happy Holiday Treats

I debated posting these recipes, as they have nothing to do with a plant-based diet, and are only slightly vegetarian…but they have everything to do with holiday treats!  That and I’ve been asked for the recipes enough times I figure the blog is the place they should be, so everyone can share the magic!  I make these treats every year for the holidays–they mail well, share well, and are always loved and devoured!

hot chocolate mix


DARK HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

  • Servings: makes 8 cups mix
  • Difficulty: super easy
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I usually double the recipe and keep this mix in a tupperware container on my shelf all year long.  This also makes a great mix to share with neighbors for the holidays!  Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups dry milk powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 cups Special Dark Cocoa (I’ve only found this in Hershey’s Brand, in 16oz containers)
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl.  Working in batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor or blender until the chocolate is finely ground.  Store in an airtight container.
  2. For hot chocolate, stir 3 tablespoons of the mix in a mug of hot milk.

sweet potato ice cream


 

SWEET POTATO ICE CREAM WITH CANDIED PECANS AND MARSHMALLOW FLUFF

  • Servings: makes 1 quart
  • Difficulty: medium, due to time and multiple phases to make ice cream. But it's your very own gourmet homemade ice cream!
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Adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup pureed sweet potato, chilled
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare sweet potato puree by baking one large sweet potato.  Pull off the potato skin and puree the potato flesh in the blender.  This step is best done the day before making the ice cream so the potato will cool in the fridge overnight.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl.  You can freeze the egg yolks for another use, or simply discard.
  3. Place a candy thermometer on the side of a medium pot.  Put both sugars, cream, half and half, salt and cinnamon in a the pot and heat until the mix just scalds and there are tiny bubbles around the perimeter of the pot (it’ll be roughly 100F).
  4. Using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg yolks and gradually ladle the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks while whisking.  This will temper the egg yolks and avoid having scrambled eggs for ice cream.  Keep whisking the eggs while adding 5-6 ladlefuls of the heated cream mix.  Once it looks soupy and the eggs are well-tempered, add the entire mixture into the cream mixture in the pot.  Continue to whisk the mixture while cooking to 180 degrees.  Remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.  Fill another large bowl with ice and the bowl with the ice cream mixture to cool on the ice.  Once room temperature, place in the fridge and cool at least two hours or overnight.
  5. Once cooled, pour 4 cups ice cream mixture in the blender, one cup chilled sweet potato puree, and 3 teaspoons vanilla in the blender and mix until smooth.
  6. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
  7. While ice cream is freezing, make the candied pecans.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan and add the pecans.  Stir while pecans are toasting, and gradually add the sugar, spoonful at a time, until it no longer melts into the butter and remains crystallized on the pecans.  Once completely “sugared”, pour the pecans into a bowl and wait until ice cream is made.
  8. Once ice cream is ready, scoop some ice cream into your ice cream container, then add a couple small spoonfuls of marshmallow fluff, then sprinkle pecans.  Continue layering ice cream, fluff, and pecans so when you scoop some ice cream to serve, it’ll be nicely swirled throughout.

pecan bars


PECAN BARS

  • Servings: makes about 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: pretty easy, but there are a few steps
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From Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  To make even more delectable, dip the bars in chocolate.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CRUST

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (8 oz) pecan halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Make crust: Put butter and brown sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in salt.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition.  Continue mixing until dough begins to come together in large clumps.
  2. Press dough about 1/4 inch thick unto a 9×13-inch baking pan.  Pierce the dough with a fork.  Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.  Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Reduce oven to 325F.
  3. Make filling:  Place butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, and heavy cream in a saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat; stir in salt, nuts, and vanilla.  Pour filling into the cooled crust.
  4. Bake until filling bubbles, 15-20 minutes.  Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Run a paring knife around edges of the pan and invert onto a cooling rack.  Invert again onto a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 1×3-inch bars.  Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

peanut brittle 1


PEANUT BRITTLE

  • Servings: about 2 1/2 pounds
  • Difficulty: medium
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Adapted from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking.  I have made this with peanuts as well as mixed nuts, and the results are always gourmet.  To make them even more special, dip them in chocolate.  Note: I have used rice syrup with great results, but I’ve never tried a vegan butter substitute.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (or rice syrup)
  • 1/4 cup butter (no substitutes), cubed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups salted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. In preparation:  Grease two large baking sheets with sides and keep warm in a 200F oven.  Combine baking soda, 1 teaspoon water and vanilla in s small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, combine sugar, 1 cup water and corn (or rice) syrup.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 240F (soft-ball stage).
  3. Stir in butter, salt and peanuts; heat and stir until the mixture reaches 300F (hard-crack stage).
  4. Remove pot from the heat; vigorously stir in baking soda vanilla mixture.  Quickly pour half the mixture over each cookie sheet.  Let cool completely before breaking into pieces.